ON 15 JUNE 2021

Mr Lim Tze Peng, Mr Woon Tai Ho,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good afternoon.
Delighted to join you for the book launch and exhibition of “Soul of Ink: Lim Tze Peng at 100”.

Today, we honour the remarkable accomplishments of Mr Lim Tze Peng - one of Singapore’s most accomplished artists.

Let me say a few words first in Mandarin:

今天能够为我国国画大师林子平先生祝寿,这是我的 荣幸。林先生体现了活到老,学到老了的精神。到了百 岁还继续寻求创新,突破自己,他的坚持令人钦佩。年 到百岁,松青鹤唱,在此祝林先生福寿康宁、万寿无疆.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong taking a wefie with Lim Tze Peng.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong giving his speech.

Mr Lim Tze Peng’s journey as an artist has been long, but fruitful.

He developed an interest in the arts early in his youth, before the Second World War. Taught himself painting and calligraphy, and honed his talents as a Student at Chung Cheng High School. After graduation, he became a teacher at Sin Min School and subsequently the principal in the 1950s.

For over thirty years, he made sure his students received a good education and looked after their welfare. In his free time, he relentlessly pursued his passion for art. His field trips in the 1960s and 70s around Southeast Asia with other Nanyang-style artists helped to inspire and shape his artistic identity. In 1977, he unexpectedly won the Special Prize at the Commonwealth Art Exhibition in England. His entry was initially rejected by the local selection Committee for being neither Eastern nor Western.

Tze Peng’s art opens a window into our nation’s soul, while enriching our heritage, and contributing to an emerging national cultural identity.

In 2014, I opened the Lim Tze Peng Art Gallery at Chung Cheng High School. Mr Lim’s alma mater had set up the gallery after he donated to them over 100 of his best works. The masterpieces there now inspire the students, and future generations of artists. So when Mr Woon Tai Ho invited me to launch his new book about Mr Lim Tze Peng’s life story and his works, I was deeply honoured to accept.

The book is titled: “Soul of Ink: Lim Tze Peng at 100”. It describes the “spirit” of Lim Tze Peng’s art. From his scenes of streetscapes and kampongs in our early nation-building years, to his iconic paintings of Chinatown and the Singapore River through the decades. His life’s work captures the atmosphere of the changing times – still within living memory, but fading into the past year by year. His paintings offer a vivid glimpse of the colour of everyday lives in Singapore, as our country developed and urbanised. Tze Peng’s art opens a window into our nation’s soul, while enriching our heritage, and contributing to an emerging national cultural identity.

Lim Tze Peng presented Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with the book ‘Soul of Ink: Lim Tze Peng at 100’
Curator Low Sze Wee and Author Woon Tai Ho leading Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on a tour around the Gallery

But the spirit of his art is neither Eastern nor Western.
It is Singaporean.

This is exactly what art can do. Bridge generations past, present and future. Express our creative responses to our circumstances, and articulate our dreams and aspirations. At the same time, remind us that our future paths are our own to forge. Just like how Mr Lim forged his own path.

His works were undeniably rooted in Chinese Art, from the materials, to the style of painting and writing. But the spirit of his art is neither Eastern nor Western. It is Singaporean.

Mr Lim has inspired new generations of local artists, each with their own unique styles, but all distinctly Singaporean. Piece by piece, each new artwork contributes to our collective identity, our sense of national identity and pride. As Mr Lim said, “Everybody contributes differently, I am born for art and my contribution is in art. You can live to 200 years, [but] it will be a short life, if you haven’t made a meaningful contribution.”

To Mr Lim, we thank you for your contributions to Singapore.

In a few months’ time, the National Arts Council (NAC) will open the Cultural Medallion Gallery, right here at the Arts House. To celebrate and honour our Cultural Medallion recipients, like Mr Lim. Their artistic excellence and contributions across various art forms, from the visual and literary arts to music, theatre and dance, have left an indelible imprint on our cultural landscape. These cultural icons and role models we call our own, and their legacies, will continue to inspire new generations of local artists and performers.

Last but not least, let me congratulate Mr Woon Tai Ho on successfully putting together today’s book launch and exhibition. We need passionate individuals like him. Whose efforts – in nurturing the arts, supporting our local artists, and growing awareness and appreciation of Singaporean art – are just as important in keeping the Arts thriving here.

Thank you all once again, and I wish everyone an enjoyable evening.

A group shot. (Left to right: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lim Su kok, Lim Tze Peng, Chua Eng Lee, Woon Tai Ho)